Labour History

Putting the ‘Australian Settlement’ in Perspective

Labour History (2012), 102, (1), 99–118.

Abstract

This paper reviews arguments about the origins and significance of Australia’s formative policies of Developmentalism, Tariff Protection, Industrial Arbitration, White Australia, and Old-Age Pensions. To do so, it applies the comparative method, following a ‘most similar systems’ approach that juxtaposes Australia and New Zealand in the southern hemisphere and the United States and Canada in the northern. Putting the Australian experience in comparative perspective allows us to distinguish what was ‘normal’ in either a settler society and a broader context; to identify what was distinctive; and to get a clearer picture of what factors contributed to any such distinctiveness. Developmentalism, tariff protection and racial exclusion were common to all four country cases; only arbitration and old-age pensions were peculiar to New Zealand and Australia. In explaining that distinctiveness, comparative analysis confirms the decisive role of unusually strong labour movements and supplies a corrective to prevailing interpretations based on treating the Australian case in isolation.

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Endnotes

1.For discussion of that concept, seeGiovanni Capoccia andR. Daniel Keleman, ‘The Study of Critical Junctures: Theory, Narrative, and Counterfactuals in Historical Institutionalism’, World Politics, vol.59, no.3, 2007, pp.341-69. Google Scholar

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Fenna, Alan